But the best news for the Ducks (25-3, 14-2) in their 96-78 win over USC (15-12, 5-11) Sunday morning was the sight of Ruthy Hebard in uniform and participating fully during warm-ups and then checking into the game early in the first quarter.
Wearing a brace on the right knee, Hebard’s presence allowed the Ducks to again be the team they had been up until her injury early in the loss at Oregon State.
With 13 points and eight rebounds in just over 15 minutes of playing time, Hebard’s impact to the Oregon attack was immediate and the one to most directly benefit was Boley.
Both Oti Gildon and Hebard found operating space inside as evidenced by Ionescu’s 13 assists and the Ducks’ 32-24 advantage in points in the paint.
And every time the USC defense collapsed to defend the pick and roll, Boley made them pay from distance, hitting 8 of 11 from beyond the arc and 11 of 18 overall.
A run and gun first quarter ended with USC up by a bucket 27-25.
Oregon struck quickly to take the lead for good early in the second frame. Satou Sabally’s jumper tied the game at 27, then Boley buried a three and the Ducks were off to the races.
Oregon outscored USC 15-9 in the second quarter to take a 40-36 lead into the half and then dialed up a 31-point third quarter to take the game in hand.
As a team, Oregon out shot USC 52.5% (31-59) to 44.1% (26-59), and owned the glass 39-23.
Ionescu’s 13 points, 13 assists and 12 rebounds gave the junior guard her seventh triple double of the season – a new NCAA single season record – and extends her NCAA career record to seventeen.
Sabally’s 12 points gave the Ducks four players with double figures in the scorebook.
With the victory in hand late in the fourth quarter seniors Maite Cazorla and Gildon were recognized by the crowd of 8,232 in their last regular season game at Matthew Knight Arena.
It is a near certainty Oregon will host an opening round of the NCAA tournament but to lay claim to a second straight Pac-12 regular season championship and secure a number one NCAA seed and the Portland regional berth it would provide, the Ducks need to close out the conference season with a pair of road wins this week in the desert.
Arizona is up first with a 7:00 pm tip off on Friday, March 1st with a quick turnaround before tangling with Arizona State on Sunday, March 3rd at 11:00 am. Both games will be carried on the Pac-12 Networks.
~ Rick Morgan